OAKLAND — Steve Kerr hardly minced his words about Kevin Durant, who had more turnovers (nine) than field-goal attempts (eight) in the Warriors’ Game 2 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
“Absolutely, he needs to be more aggressive,” Kerr said. “It’s the playoffs. He can get any shot he wants at anytime. I want to see him get 20 shots, 30.”
It does not appear Durant wants to do that when the Warriors (1-1) play the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 3 on Saturday in Los Angeles.
“I’m not going to just go out there and just go for 20 or 30 shots,” Durant said. “I don’t play like that. If we were up by  points and I had five shots, everybody’s shots would be evenly distributed around that time when we’re up 30. Me taking two more shots after that isn’t the reason we lost.”
The Warriors squandered a 31-point lead against the Clippers for other reasons, too. They could not stop Lou Williams (36 points) or Montrezl Harrell (25). The Warriors have collected as many fouls as assists (31). The Warriors had 22 turnovers. They admittedly lacked the same intensity when they built a 31-point lead.
Hence, Durant initially took exception to a question on how he felt about his level of aggression in Game 2.
“Tell me how you want me to play,” Durant said to a reporter in a respectful tone. “I just want to have a conversation on how you feel you want me to play.”
Durant then explained how he wants to play.
“When I get the ball in my position to score, I will look to score. If I don’t have an option to score, I will pass,” Durant said. “We run a lot of plays here. We move the ball every time down the court. Every time I touch it, I’m not going to break the play just to be aggressive to get up 30 shots because it looks like something is wrong with me. I’m just going to play basketball. We won Game 1 that way. We were up . We should stick with the game plan we had for 3 ½ quarters and do that for 48 minutes.”
In fairness to Durant, Kerr also emphasized the need for all of his players to improve their ball movement and cutting. In fairness to Durant, Kerr predicted he will play much differently in Game 3.
“He’s the most skilled basketball player on the Earth,” Kerr said of Durant. “He’s a champion and two-time Finals MVP. He’ll be coming back tomorrow firing and everybody to play.”
Does that mean Durant will suddenly become a gunslinger? Not exactly. In the Warriors’ last five regular-season games in April, Durant averaged 17.6 points per game while shooting 66.7 percent from the field on only 10.2 shots per contest. He also averaged 7.0 assists. Those marked his lowest scoring numbers and his highest assist numbers during his 2 ½ seasons with the Warriors.
What happened? Has Durant become passive? Has he had an epiphany that setting up Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson for open look usually results in a lot of points? After occasionally chafing on ball movement, is Durant trying to send a message?
It does not appear that way. Instead, the Warriors back up Durant’s contention that he simply has played the game depending on what defenses he sees.
The dynamic has changed, though, matching up against Clippers guard Patrick Beverley. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Beverley lacks size against the likely taller than 6-foot-9, 240-pound Durant. Yet, Beverley makes up for that height differential with physical play and tactics that he hopes bait Durant into bad habits.
Durant was ejected with 4:41 left in Game 1 after the pair drew a pair of double technicals within a 19-second span. Though Durant had 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting, Kerr wanted Durant to show more restraint whenever Beverley fronted Durant in the post or flailed his arms mockingly.
Durant tolerated Beverley’s tactics in Game 2 with more grace. When Herrell locked him up on a hard foul, Durant diffused the situation by dapping him on the head. Durant also absorbed two shots to the ribs off of hard screens without complaining. Still, Durant scored more from the free-throw line (11-of-12) than from the field (8-of-9). He also committed four of his six fouls on offensive fouls in the second half.
Durant called the Clippers’ defensive schemes “a gimmick defense.” But it’s a scheme that he said has made him think on how to attack.
“I got a pest in Patrick Beverley who’s underneath me. I can definitely shoot and score every time if it’s a one-on-one situation. But we got a guy that is dropping and helping and we have another guy that is just sitting and waiting for me to dribble the basketball. If I put the basketball on the floor, I can probably make 43 percent of my shots that I shoot like that. But that’s not really going to do nothing for us with the outcome of the game. We have a nice flow and everybody is touching the rock. So I’m not going to get in the way of the game because I want to have a little back and forth with Patick Beverley. I’m Kevin Durant. You know who I am. Ya’ll know who I am.”
And with Kevin Durant being who he is, he broke down the Clippers’ defensive in microscopic detail.
“I’ve been playing against every defense. It’s not just that type. It’s the constant help on my drives, the poking at the ball as I’m dribbling, the two guys rushing me when I beat somebody off the dribble,” Durant said. “That’s how I know to pass the ball. I have to be patient before the catch. Then I have to set up shop sometimes and clear out space so I can get my stuff going. But in this series it’s kind of weird because when the guy is that small, you got the advantage. But the refs see.”
Durant believes the officials view his matchup with Beverley as a version of “David vs. Goliath.” While fans might be rooting for the underdog to win, Durant believes that underdog has also received unintentionally favorable treatment that contributed to four offensive fouls in the second half. .
“The refs are going to give me a little bit more. So when he runs up on me like a pitbull and grab me and hold me, I don’t mind it. That’s how he’s going to make his money. That’s how he feeds his family,” Durant said. “But if I throw something back, then let us play. I got four or five offensive fouls like that. I’ll figure out each possession how I can be more effective without getting offensive fouls.”
No wonder the Warriors have not said much directly to Durant about his shot selection.
“I just encourage him to play basketball however he feels he should play,” Draymond Green said. “It’s not really my job to decide what somebody should do or tell them how they feel they should play the game of basketball.”
That is a sensitive topic for Durant both because of his stature and his background. As Durant said, “I never had more fun than playing basketball than anything in my life when I was a kid.” So after skipping out on reporters following the Warriors’ Game 2 loss to the Clippers, Durant talked in a somewhat defiant tone about his shot selection and an explanatory tone on the game’s X’s and O’s. Eventually, the chatty Durant ended the interview.
“I know you wan to talk to me for the rest of the day because I got so much knowledge,” Durant said.
And with that knowledge, Durant might play better than he did in Game 2. But he sounds adamant it won’t just happen by reaching a shot quota.